From victim to survivor – from tenant to landlord

One of the oldest organisations in Yorkshire that supports survivors of domestic abuse and sexual exploitation has bought a town centre office building thanks to the co-operation of several responsible finance organisations.

On 22 October Rotherham Rise completed the purchase of the Grade II listed building in Rotherham High Street that it already occupied together with other tenants. The building, which is to be renamed Rise House, provides 1,000 sq ft of office and retail space. Rotherham Rise uses about two-thirds of the accommodation and will now receive rent from the tenants of the other offices, thereby providing a new income stream. Rise is redeveloping the ground floor retail area as a cafe, which is scheduled to open by the end of November.

Sue Wynne, chief executive of Rotherham Rise, said: “The market for rented offices in Rotherham does not favour not-for-profit organisations like us. We have had to move premises several times in the last 10 years and it’s been expensive and disruptive. We have been wanting to buy somewhere for a while now so that our working environment is stable and sustainable.”

Rise had been planning to purchase a building and saw an opportunity at the High Street premises when they moved in as tenants at the end of 2018. They then started to look at options of how to achieve this. The purchase was made possible by Co-operative & Community Finance, Co-op Loan Fund and Key Fund collaborating on a package of long-term loans. The Co-op Foundation has provided loan and grant finance for the fitting out of the cafe.

As a result of the purchase and the new income from tenants and the cafe, Rise will be in a stronger financial position and it will not have to worry about moving premises again. This leaves the organisation free to concentrate on providing its comprehensive range of services that include refuge accommodation, support services, therapeutic services, pathway services, and training in domestic abuse awareness.

Rotherham Rise was established in 1976. Today it has 30 employees and is in the process of recruiting three project workers and it is also advertising for the voluntary post of treasurer.

Sue Wynne said: “Over the last 10 years there has been a very significant increase in the demand for our services. This is a good thing because it shows a greater awareness of domestic abuse and a willingness to report it. There has been a big leap in self-referrals. It’s been a challenge for us to keep pace with demand. Our main focus has been to ensure that people in need of our support don’t have to wait too long. Looking ahead, we are developing more pathways to our services that support people throughout the journey from victim to survivor.”

Ian Rothwell, investment manager of Co-operative & Community Finance, which manages Co-op Loan Fund, said: “It is great that we were able to help such a worthwhile organisation to secure its accommodation and improve its sustainability. This is also a good example of responsible finance organisations working together to provide appropriate lending that makes a big difference to those providing support to vulnerable people.”